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Monday, September 27, 2010

Comment On The Bus Shed

When attending the “workshop” for the bus station at the Hyatt on September 15th I had one question for the architects manning the design station I visited: what other cities of Rochester’s relative size and socioeconomic situation has built a similar facility?

The response: Shrugged shoulders and a mention of Atlanta, the center of an expanding area of 5.4 million people.

The two cities were similar in one way, Rochester was a boom town too…in the 1800’s!

Regardless, I searched online for downtown Atlanta’s bus station but instead found an intermodal, commuter rail-focused facility that bears little resemblance to the cigar shaped hub being planned for Mortimer Street.

Not satisfied, I decided to take a look at cities that are comparable to Rochester to see which, if any, had a facility similar to the planned RTS hub.
To accomplish this I used Wikipedia’s list of U.S. incorporated cities with a population of over 100,000 at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_United_States_cities_by_population

Rochester is ranked # 98 at 207,294 people.
I looked at the transportation systems of cities #81-111, 30 cities on either side of Rochester’s population ranking.

I visited the local bus companies’ websites and used Google Maps/Earth to see aerial and street level views of each bus hub I could find to see if they were comparable to the plan for Rochester.

My criteria: similar layout to RTS hub (elongated oval or rectangle), closed system of fume/exhaust management (no open air, canopy roofed, or slat-venting), and built in the center of a downtown residential district.

Results: Of the 30 cities researched none contained a bus facility that matched all three criteria.
The vast majority of them did not have a facility that was similar to the RTS hub, regardless of location.

Close to comparable were: Birmingham, Al (bus only facility but built next to train tracks and slated for intermodal use), Winston-Salem, NC (square version of RTS layout with a similar barrel roof but open air and has slats cut into roof for exhaust of fumes, not in a residential area), Laredo, TX (enclosed bus drop off and pick up built into ground floor of a parking garage and retail facility, much different building type and usage, not in a residential area, somewhat intermodal station that contains Greyhound hub).

Ironically, the ones closest in layout were in the southern states where I found many long, open air or canopied islands of bus stalls that resembled the RTS hub’s shape, likely due to their use of the hub and spoke system as well.
Nowhere in the climate and/or economic cousins to Rochester was anything close to the current RTS/RGRTA plan found.

I would attempt to influence the design of the imminent shed at Mortimer by asking that you try to make the building look like a REAL station (more like Claude Bragdon’s, less like a shed or the bunker at Amtrak) and that you would do your best to make the exterior as attractive as possible by using traditional materials like Medina sandstone and Indiana limestone instead of the usual concrete “limestone” and gaudy polished granite (particularly, Ugh, polished pink granite) but I know this project is going to be done on a tight budget.

Cheap will win and the cigar shape is locked in so, what’s the point?
Besides, you know the old saying about polishing a…

The real solution, which has already been suggested many times by others, is an intermodal station near or at the site of the current Amtrak facility.

Amtrak, Greyhound, Trailways, Taxis and RTS would all be under one roof.
Combining resources and freeing the architects from the current cigar-shaped building would likely result in a better design and layout.

A short length of light rail track on a dedicated right of way with a two-way drive, double-length trolley could close the gap between Main Street and Central Ave.
Shuttle heads north on Clinton Ave., drops off/pick up at the station then reverses to drop off/pick up the people waiting inside an enclosed area on the first floor of the St. Joseph’s Garage.

New traffic signals would have to be designed to regulate the traffic flow but that doesn’t seem beyond the skills of a good engineer and planner.
Clinton Ave. is four lanes wide and could handle relinquishing one lane to this dedicated shuttle.

Oh, there was one city that not only resembled Rochester demographically/weather-wise but has a bus station controversy of its own that is very similar to the debate about the RGRTA plan.

In Boise, Idaho there is a plan to build a bus shed in the middle of an area of downtown that is in the process of being developed into a hotel, condos, offices and a new city park by a local developer.

Look familiar?

Come to think of it, a nice tree-lined pasture in the lots behind the H.H.Warner building would be a much more appropriate addition to the neighborhood than a bus station and could be used by the current and future residents of the area’s historic and gorgeous lofts for walking the dog or sitting on a bench in the summertime.

These then are my suggestions: Intermodal station at Central Ave. and put a park where RGRTA wants to put the shed.

Dan Palmer

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